Something very significant happened on Monday at the Spring Training facility of the Arizona Diamondbacks (and yes, the Colorado Rockies as well). For the first time since September 5th, pitcher Brandon McCarthy took to the mound and faced live hitters. This is not big deal for most pitchers. However, if you are coming off a fractured skull like the 29-year old hurler, this is a huge step forward on the road to a recovery that quite frankly, seems remarkably quick for such a gruesome injury. Like most pitchers early in camp, he used a net to shield himself from potential screamers coming off bats. That should not change the fact that this day was almost inconceivable almost six months ago.
Brandon McCarthy’s recovery is remarkable even if he never throws another Major League pitch. Image: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I will assume most of, if not all of us have seen the gruesome video from that fateful day. Erick Aybar drilled a pitch back at McCarthy who had practically no time to defend himself except the slight turn of his head. While not harmless, it certainly did not foreshadow the report we heard after it happened. CT scans revealed an epidural hemorrhage and a brain contusion as well as the skull fracture. It is safe to say that not only was his career in jeopardy but his life as well. Yet thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, McCarthy was able to heal from his wounds as if it was a lesser injury than a broken ankle or a torn knee ligament. Yet, there is still the mental aspect of the recovery which could be even more daunting than the physical one. According to mlb.com, McCarthy reported no hesitation about taking the mound again. He was more concerned about his command and his changeup. Think about that for a minute. His life could have ended on the mound yet not even a half year later, McCarthy had no qualms about standing on the hill once again. I guess that is why he is a Major League Baseball player and the rest of us write or play pick-up sticks for a living. Still, I would think there a smidgen of trepidation on his part about getting back out there.
It remains to be seen if Brandon McCarthy’s midset will be different when he actually faces an opposing batter without the protective layer of a net. I wouldn’t blame him if he just decided to get cold feet and hang up his glove permantely. His story to get to this point is inspiring and should make every athlete think twice about skipping a game or practice because of a minor aliment.
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